Hopping from one foot to the other, Right foot tap tap, Left foot tap tap… A natural motion that I had not made for some time, triggered by nervousness and anticipation.
It is a natural mimic of my wrestling warmup. A light footed dance that sets my mind and body into a unified trance of focus.
I am being pelted with sheets of rain accompanied by lightning that feels too close with the absence of cover. My life entered a strange slow motion… Yep, I remember that from wrestling too…
I was back..
My mind was right..
I am snapped out of my trance with a thought “where the fuck is Jed!”
I lift my binoculars from their soaked case and bring them to my face to check the horizon a mile away. The rain looked like gray sheets falling across the open Wyoming Landscape. I was waiting for my stalking eyes to get into place.
Little did I know, I was only 50 yards from the mule deer I will never forget.
Hunting is the closest thing I have found to the one on one thrill I experienced with in sports. It is you vs them, you have your teammates to help but in the end you need to get within range and make the shot.
I knew the chase and preparation was as grueling and obsessive, but I finally experienced the adrenaline and thrill similar to what I felt after winning a state title. An overwhelming joy that makes your heart feel like it’s outside your body, while paralyzing you from forming words.
That much emotion in success doesn’t come easy… Many forget, to feel that… To feel what I am describing… a lot of heartache and struggles have to precede the success.
In wrestling it was 12 years of practices, losses and prep to win a state title… In this hunt it was 5 days of sun up to sun down pursuit of an animal that barely saw the light of day and a litter of “almost” hunting stories that haunt me daily.
Wyoming is a beautiful and incredible place. You can glass rolling hills with deep cut ravines, grasslands, sage flats, to swampy creek bottoms filled with cottonwoods. I saw Whitetail, Mule Deer, Antelope, coyote, Elk and… A Rattlesnake…
I touched earth that had no signs of human intrusion for years. The closest store was 50 miles away and the locals brought you back in time.
I went from the acceptance of going home empty handed to 30 hours later reflecting on our best hunting trip of our short 1080 Outdoors history.
Day 1 & 2
I was very reserved the first couple days out there as I felt like such an outsider and so naive to the land in front of me. They were long and difficult. Jed and I both missed lesser deer than we killed and we spent countless hours getting beat down by the sun and wind.
We changed our tactics. We attempted stalking a large ditch system with three people. The tortuous thing about the land we were on was a simple ditch system was never just a simple ditch system. We spent 2 miles and two hours on full alert with bows ready to draw. We blew one buck out of the ditch system at the very end.
The weight of the trip started taking its toll. You second guess yourself, the location and your hunting partners. The failed spot and stalks started piling up. I started losing my focus and making stupid decisions. It felt as though the trip was unraveling.
Came with little hope. Jake and I set off together at sunrise. We spotted two lone bucks near the road we were driving on. I decided they were big enough to pursue (anything with horns).
The initial stalk failed and we tailed them over a hill. Like many spot and stalks when we popped over “that hill” they were nowhere to be found.
I tabled my compound bow for a crossbow at this time as close range shots weren’t ordinary in the “road hunting” scenario.
We decided to move back towards the vehicle, feeling defeated yet again. We had been on high alert for an hour. We started our walk back to the vehicle, and we relaxed. We crested a hill and standing at under 40 yards broadside, were the two bucks.
They did not stay long and I missed a running shot that zipped a couple inches in front of the buck.
That mess up was inexcusable and we knew it. Onto the next one.
We hiked a mile back to an advantageous glassing rock that Jake had success at earlier in the week. It didn’t take long and we had spotted two really nice bucks crossing sage flats and ditches a mile or so away.
We last spotted them crossing a flat and moving towards a large ditch system we referred to as “turkey foot”. Turkey foot gets its name because of the long stem of the ditch branching into 3 large ravines at the top, something you can see from miles away.
We stalked the whole stem and the turkey foot, nothing.
Completely defeated we began our long trek back to the vehicle. Walking swiftly with my head down, I heard Jake say “snake next to you!” In mid stride I looked down to the left and saw my left foot a couple inches from the head of a rattlesnake. I never broke stride and the snake never moved.
Sharing our last bit of water before our final hike out we jokingly entertained the idea of what we would have done if it had struck. The end total of our hike was just under 6 miles and it took us 4 hours. Where I saw that rattlesnake was still 2.5 miles from our vehicle with not a stitch of phone service.
I was done… Are you kidding me?? We did all that and what do we get? I almost get bit by a fucking rattlesnake… My god. I came to the conclusion I might eat my tag as I only had the next day to hunt.
At that point I had fallen in love with Mule Deer hunting.
Sounds weird right?
But I knew, anything that can suck this bad must be incredible when it all comes together.
We got back to the vehicle and I had a little service and got the text from Jed
“Gut shot a monster”
I looked at Jake and said “our day might not be the worst in the group”
I fully expected a nightmare to follow but we successfully recovered one of the biggest Mule Deer any of us will lay our eyes on.
It is not a story for me to tell but something Jed will release a blog on. It is a story you will not want to miss.
So finally… Our luck was changing or as I like to say our “hunting karma bank” was full and we finally got a break.
The Final Day:
With bad weather looming the next day I accepted my fate. I will eat tag soup but celebrate the fuck out of Jeds deer. This trip was a success.
The terrain was covered with Fog similar to my optimism. Jed and I attempted a stalk on a small buck, where I sent a crossbow bolt 5 feet over him at 80 yards. I had yet to be within 75 yards of a deer. I am a loser…
We had our lunch and decided to jump on the UTV to make a quick exploration mission on an oil road that we had our eye on but no one had touched during the trip and what looked like for years.
A large rain storm was brewing to the west and was expected to drench the landscape most of the afternoon, we were against the clock.
We stopped at our first glancing spot, like a magnet my Vortex Binoculars were drawn to a figure. There he sat, a beautiful 3 x 3 mule deer, perched on a rock ledge unlike any opportunity I had up to that point.
We raced back to camp and grabbed Jeds Dad, Mark and sped back to the site. Our number one rule up to that point was to never lose site of a bedded buck, we broke it and were delighted to find him in the same spot when we returned.
It begins to sprinkle.
Jed volunteered to be the spotter as Mark and I stalked, using radios to communicate.
On our way up the hill it begins to rain and I radio to Jed to put the camera equipment away. Once we reach the top of the hill the rain turned into a downpour. I could see Jed shoving the camera equipment in the UTV.
Like a small ant running for cover I watch Jed as he sprinted back to a place he would gain visual of the deer.
As I am waiting for Jed I begin to hop, right foot tap tap, left foot tap tap, right foot tap tap, left foot tap tap. I watched in slow motion as rain dripped from the bill of my hat and focused on the rock, I believed the deer was behind. My pants and coat soak through hugging my drenched under clothes.
I look down at my crossbow, scope is clear. I do the same with my binos and range finder. Right foot tap tap, left foot tap tap.
A small figure appears on the horizon, rain coming down so hard I can barely form the shape of it.. It’s Jed
I radio to Jed, “Do you have eyes on him?”
Jed responds muffled by the rain “ I can’t see anything, you will have to do it alone”.
I looked at mark and mutter “don’t get struck by lighting” and began my stalk.
When I spotted this mule deer it had been just down from a high point with a pile of rocks that looked like a table top. I worked from what I thought was that landmark and began stalking near crevices and ditches while the rain pounded down.
The rain went from sideways sheets to a steady downpour.
Stopping I pull out my radio, “Jed, do you have eyes on him yet?”.
I am slowly losing hope… I start towards a large ravine when I hear my radio in my pocket.
I hold it to my ear, I can barely hear Jed over the rain “Turn the fuck around, you are way past him!”
I instantly dropped to my knees in a panic and look at my surroundings.
Where the fuck is he! I start walking back the way I came.
I whisper into my radio “Where is he?!”
Jed never could make out my radio transmissions over the rain, and I could barely hear his.
I begged him “Repeat what you said! Where is he?”
I finally heard him say “stop! Do you see me?”
“Yes” I responded, as I could make out a small figure on a horizon that seemed miles away.
“He is between me and you, walk towards me! He is in front of a rock, right below you” Jed explained
I moved swiftly to a rock where I expected to find him… not there..
“Shit, where is he?” I whined too Jed.
I scan to my left, nothing…
To my right, There he was…
Tips of bright red antlers erect behind a rock.
We found him.
I eased up my soaking range finder.. 60 yards, too far…
I noticed he was locked on Jed and staring away so I moved ahead.
Drops off rain coming off my hat, I use my drenched sleeves to wipe my range finder.
One step at a time I keep telling myself..
I close in on the rock..
Right foot, left foot, rain drops..
I extend my right hand to balance myself on a rock as I put my foot in a puddle. I step on an edge that fits one foot and a rock falls.
I freeze… I am at the rock…
I ease my left hand to the rock and move to my right…
There he was, under 10 yards and no clue I was there.
I had chased these animals for 5 days without getting closer than 75 yards and here I am under 10 yards from a Mule Deer most anyone would be proud of.
His left ear twitched slightly as he lied erect in his bed. I Brought the cross bow up and every one of the pins lined his neck and head. A small drop of rain ran from top to bottom in the scope line.
I squeezed the trigger..
His head hit the ground instantly and he died in his bed.
I threw my arms up and screamed to Jed, then turned and screamed at Mark.
I lost my emotions. I have not uncontrollably celebrated anything like that since my first state title.
It was to date… My greatest hunting accomplishment.
About The Author
Taylor is the Owner and founder of 1080 Outdoors. He founded the company from his drive and passion of the Outdoors. He thoroughly enjoys Turkey and Deer Hunting in midwest. He runs a digital marketing company after he recently left the Law Enforcement profession. Follow along on Taylor’s hunting journey this year.